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Does your customer delight take flight?

Let’s assume, like most businesses, that you have a keen focus on pleasing your customers. You have plans, people and policies that ensure you are offering a great experience, and you are doing everything you can to make it easy to do business with you.

That’s all well and good – congratulations! However, it’s important to note that there are brands committed to going beyond “pleasing” their customers – they are moving up to “delighting” their customers.

“Pleasing” customers inhabits a curious space in the paradigm of customer expectations, signaling a slight upside over the usual experience. And of course, pleasing customers is critically important.

But “delighting” customers elevates you to a different level of
satisfaction – we might say it borders on the “unexpected.”

Achieving customer “delight” can have a major impact that goes beyond the person being delighted – it can create a massive groundswell of positive word of mouth. A “delightful” experience can be so unexpected, it can turn that Scotch tape that binds your customer to your business into cement.

So what does “delight” look like? Let’s look at a recent headline-grabbing example that comes, “unexpectedly,” from the airline industry. Delta Air Lines, which already enjoys top tier Net Promoter Scores, did something recently that topped even the loftiest of “delightful” expectations.

A group of 41 fifth grade students and their chaperons in Oklahoma City were headed to Richmond, Va., to attend an event a year in the making. Without warning, another airline canceled their flight – and with no timely alternatives, it appeared they would miss out on their trip.

Despite the fact that this group was booked on another airline, Delta’s Oklahoma City Operations and Customer Center decided to take on the kids’ plight. Astonishingly, Delta worked with partner Endeavor Airlines to grab a spare aircraft and crew, flew the plane from Atlanta to Oklahoma City, and operated a special flight to Richmond for the group.

The Delta duty director who approved this extraordinary service told the media why they decided to intervene: “When we see people in a bind, we don’t see customers of one airline or another – we see PEOPLE. ... we’re here to help everyone we can. That’s what makes moments like these possible.”

Do you think these people appreciated Delta’s efforts? Do you think they will be loyal to Delta forever? Do you think they will tell everyone they know about what happened? Of course they will.

Obviously, this kind of effort is extraordinary, and is hard to do every day – given the resources required. But it’s a great example for all of us.
But apply this test to your own situation – when your company sees a customer problem, do you think about it from the point of view of the customer, or do your own internal concerns and policies take precedence? Are you willing to step out of normal procedures and figure how to solve the customer issue? Do you empower your people to do that?

“Delighting” customers, the next step beyond “pleasing” customers, is a mindset. With the right mindset, your company can find opportunities to go above and beyond. It’s not just the right thing to do either – your company will benefit hugely over time as the word spreads that your company cares, and that your company is the place to do business.

Gary Fassak is a partner and CMO at Chief Outsiders LLC. He can be reached at